LAKE ODESSA, Mich. (WOOD) - Michigan State Police are trying to determine why a 20-year-old Portland man drove his car into the path of a train Monday night, despite evidence warning lights at the crossing were working.
Michael Cole was headed north on Jordan Lake Road in Lake Odessa around 8 p.m. Monday when his car was hit by an eastbound CSX freight train on the tracks. Cole was killed.
Tonya Beha and Tara Vansiclen witnessed the crash.
"I know my heart dropped and I just wanted to cry," Beha told 24 Hour News 8.
Beha was driving south on Jordan Lake and stopped for the approaching train.
"He didn't actually look like he was paying too much attention. He just looked like he was driving nonchalantly and it did not matter that the train honked its horn," Beha said.
Vansiclen was parked in a lot just south of the tracks and saw Cole's car approach from the opposite direction.
"And they got closer and I was like, 'I don't think they're gonna stop.' And then I seen the train, and I was like, 'I think they're gonna-' And tat's when the train hit the car," Vansiclen said.
The impact was frightening, the women said, driving the car several yards down the tracks.
Beha followed a road parallel to the track to see if she could help.
"I got about 10 feet, and that's when the car just went in flames," Beha said.
The weather was clear and the signal was working. There are no gates at the crossing.
MSP says it has found nothing to indicate alcohol or drugs were involved, or that Cole intentionally drove into the path of the train. The reason for the tragedy remains a mystery.
"I don't know if he was actually paying attention or if he wasn't, but to me, he had his hands on the wheel. He just looked like he was going," Beha said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the MSP Lakeview Post at 989.352.8444.
Thirty-three-year-old Ronald T. Smith II was grew up in Warren.
Is tonight the night? Maybe it's tomorrow. Or even Sunday.
Two other people, who were inside the residence at the time, escaped safely.